Why I went to Syria to fight ISIS

If more people started supporting the YPG, pitching in in whatever way they can, the war against ISIS could be won, at least in Rojava, within the next year or two.

By JONATHAN BOTAN
July 25, 2016 21:46
3 minute read.
Fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) carry their weapons at a military training

Fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) carry their weapons at a military training camp in Ras al-Ain, Syria. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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I’ve wanted to come and help in this fight against Islamic State for a long time, because ISIS is all over the world. In all of our cities. About five-and-a-half months ago, I decided enough was enough, and knew what I needed to do. I made some contacts here in Syria on the ground and thanks to a couple friends that were here previously as volunteers, it was easier for me to get here. It was a long journey.

Supporting the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its sister organization, the women’s protection units (YPJ) came after constantly seeing and hearing the news that they are one of the main forces combating and defeating ISIS. The YPG has been combating ISIS since 2011. The group is based in eastern Syria in the area known as Rojava. Only beginning with the Kobani operation in 2015, when the YPG defended a Kurdish town from ISIS, did the YPG/YPJ start receiving air support from the coalition.

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There have been thousands upon thousands of soldiers killed in this war. If more people knew about the YPG, and more people started supporting it, maybe less innocent lives would be lost and fewer civilians would be wounded or killed. Currently, we are in Manbij. Some people here call Manbij “Little France”.

Manbij is an ISIS stronghold not too far from Kobani, where a deadly battle took place last year. I’ve personally seen American and French ISIS members. We have captured many foreign passports as well as American dollars, British pounds and a lot of Libyan money that extremist volunteers brought with them.

If more people started supporting the YPG, pitching in in whatever way they can, the war against ISIS could be won, at least in Rojava, within the next year or two. The YPG lacks tons of medical gear. There aren’t enough hospitals and doctors for the amount of casualties that need care. New weapons are much needed.

Lots of the weapons used by the YPG are taken off of ISIS fighters. There are some M-16s, but only a few. The weapons mainly used are old Kalashnikovs and M-80 light machine guns, which people here call the “BKC.”

This is the same as the Soviet-made PKM 7.62 caliber belt-fed machine gun that was first introduced in 1961.



Before arriving in Rojava, I was a bit nervous about them finding out I was Jewish and half-Israeli, because yes, it is the Middle East and Syria at the end of the day.

I was kind of shocked when my fellow YPG members, many of them Kurdish, were all so happy to know they had an Israeli come to fight with them. I was so relieved. The YPG/YPJ loves everyone. It’s made up of so many different types of people. Yes, there’s always that one or two guys that aren’t the biggest supporters, but when you have their backs in war, it all seems to be forgotten.

I do think Israel should help in some way. Not necessarily that it should send weapons, but Israel is so advanced in medical technology, and that can help a lot more. The whole world really needs to wake up and see what’s going on. Everyone is too worried about all the little things in life. When a massive attack happens, everyone changes their profile picture for a day and all the sudden supports the war on ISIS, but they can’t tell you what the YPG is or what Rojava is.

The whole world has the same interests as the those in Rojava: Rid this world of ISIS.

The author is a Jew who volunteered to fight ISIS with the YPG.

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